Brian Cody doesn’t do hyperbole. What you see is what you get with the Kilkenny manager. He shares a penchant for understatement which rivals that of Declan Kidney’s – and their rolls of honour are not exactly miles apart either.
Within seconds of Sunday’s final whistle, you knew the concession of three goals will have burned him as much as the victory satisfied him.
You know he’s thinking about Noel Hickey for a start come the final, with Richie Hogan and TJ Reid surely also in the frame.
You know that his build-up to a decider against Tipperary or Limerick began on Sunday evening. It’s what makes him and his team the game’s standard bearers.
“Our build-up will be in Nowlan Park,” he said. “It won’t be behind closed doors. It will just be in Nowlan Park and that will be it. And your build-up (the media) will just take on a different dimension.
“And ye have to do what ye do and we’ll do as we do, and sometimes we’ll get together and talk about it. But that will be it – it will be different agendas,” a small grin breaking out across his face.
Cody also came to praise a Waterford team far from buried by full-time after a gripping 70 minutes of hurling.
“My opinion of Waterford is the same now as it was before last year’s All-Ireland final,” he began.
“They are an excellent team and have been for 10, 11 years now. They have some of the finest individuals to have played the game and brought in some very good young players as well.
“Last year’s final was a one-off thing for them and a one-off thing for us. It was a horrible day for them, an awful thing that could happen any of us. It is not something you wish to happen ever but it happened.
“They responded to it, they came back and performed at this level and got themselves into an All-Ireland semi-final. They made valiant strides to get to another All-Ireland final and they just came up short.”
Did he feel some degree of sympathy towards a player like Tony Browne who could end his career without a Celtic Cross?
“Tony Browne, to me, is one of the finest hurlers that ever played the game but…whenever we lose I never want sympathy from the opposition or anybody else and I wouldn’t insult Waterford by telling them that I had sympathy for them.
“My opinion of them is of a massively high proportion and the respect I have for them.”
Another held in high opinion by Cody is his talisman from Ballyhale, scorer of 1-14 last Sunday.
“He has been outstanding for us on a couple of occasions when he didn’t score at all from play. His work rate – everything about Henry Shefflin is top class.
“He brings everything to the game; he brings everything to training and brings everything to his life. He is just an outstanding fella and an outstanding player. He was excellent today.”
A 17th successive Championship win once again underlined the depth of Kilkenny’s hunger for further glory, in Cody’s view.
“I’ve made no bones about the hunger; I have never suggested our hunger is up for grabs because it won’t be up for grabs. That’s intact, that’s there.
“I mean the players who go out on that pitch and the players that they represent on the sideline as part of the panel, there’s too much involved in all of that to ever go out and give less than your best and I would never even have the slightest worry that our hunger wouldn’t be there. That’s just a guarantee.”
But throughout Sunday’s game, Cody was worried and at his most animated for many a long day in Croke Park.
“Oh absolutely. As the game goes ahead in front of you, anything can happen – a goal here, a goal there. It can change anything and with the players they have; if they get on a roll they can tear any team to bits.
“But again it goes to the final whistle. You don’t panic, it’s something that happens, you trust in the players and believe in the players and I have complete and absolute trust in every player on the panel.”
So how tough an examination was this? “It was a very serious workout. It was a savage game really, a terrific game I’d say…the game was up for grabs really until the final whistle.
“Every time we looked like we might get a bit pf breathing space they came back and got scores again. It was just a powerful game.
Cody added: “Obviously Waterford came here last year and just didn’t play. We knew they were going to atone for that in a major way. They will not be satisfied obviously because their aim was to win but they certainly performed at a very high level.”
Kilkenny have emerged from three tightly contested matches now, something which hasn’t happened too often in recent summers. Be it a one point or 10 point win, all wins please Brian Cody equally.
“A lead of nine or 10 points in hurling is very little but a lead at the end of the match, at the final whistle, of one point is all you need, all you ever want,” he said.
“I’ve no idea what the score was, to be honest. I can’t remember how much we won by. But I know we won and that’s all that matters. This is not about margins of victory; this is about going out and giving everything you have.
“And if you give everything you have, you’re giving yourself the opportunity to come out with a potential single digit victory. And that’s the plan.”
So what thoughts on another All-Ireland final appearance?
“It’s a smashing place to be – it is brilliant. The big prize today is to get to an All-Ireland final, the winners get that. The losers? Their year is over and it is a terrible feeling.
“To be part of the build-up to an All-Ireland final is where every player and everybody involved wants to be. It has nothing to do with anything in a row.
“I will be here next Sunday just to sit back and relax and enjoy Limerick playing Tipperary and see what happens. And then we can focus on whichever team that is going to be. That will be a serious game.”